Does she hate me? or does she like me? evaluative uncertainty during intergroup contact
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Intergroup contact is often awkward, due to individuals’ concerns regarding outgroup members' evaluation of them, and these concerns are higher when the evaluation is perceived as uncertain and important (Vorauer, 2006). Although high evaluative concern has been identified as one of the key obstacles to smooth intergroup relations, many questions remain about the nature of evaluative concern and how it might be reduced. Three studies examined evaluative uncertainty- which has been theorized to be one of the main predictors of evaluative concerns during intergroup contact with an ostensible interaction paradigm. The key goals of this research were to: 1) develop and assess different potential measures of evaluative uncertainty, 2) investigate whether evaluative uncertainty is higher during intergroup contact than during intragroup contact and whether it fosters evaluative concerns, and 3) identify a strategy for reducing evaluative uncertainty. Study 1 followed a 2 (Participant Group Status: Majority vs. Minority) x 2 (Contact Type: Intergroup vs. Intragroup) factorial design and two promising measures of evaluative uncertainty were identified. In line with predictions, higher evaluative uncertainty was observed for both majority and minority group members during intergroup as compared to intragroup contact. Study 2 followed a 2 (Uncertainty Manipulation: Uncertainty vs. Certainty) x 2 (Contact Type: Intergroup vs. Intragroup) factorial design, using a modified version of a manipulation developed in previous research to manipulate general uncertainty. Unfortunately, however, the manipulation was not successful. Study 3 examined whether evaluative uncertainty can be reduced by prompting individuals to reflect on how their traits are usually perceived by others, and whether this reduced uncertainty can then lead to improved contact experiences. The study followed a 2 (General Meta-Evaluation Activation: Yes vs. No) x 2 (Participant Ethnicity: White vs. Chinese) x 2 (Contact Type: Intergroup vs. Intragroup) factorial design. As hypothesized, prompting individuals to reflect on how their traits are usually perceived by others led to reduced evaluative uncertainty and more positive interaction behavior (i.e., increased self-disclosure, more communication effort, and increased interaction enjoyment – the latter only in White participants).